Aberdeen now face a nervy three-way scrap for second spot, and Europe, that looks set to go right to the wire this season.
Boss Derek McInnes admitted the Dons were “murdered” in the second half of a concerning 2-0 humbling by Hibs at Easter Road.
The Reds must ensure that defeat is an abberation and does not kill off the bid to finish runners-up for a fourth straight season and secure Europe for the fifth consecutive year.
There was no sunshine on Leith for the dismal Reds, only gloomy clouds that they must disperse in time for Sunday’s visit of Premiership leaders Celtic to Pittodrie.
Aberdeen were completely over-run and outplayed in a disastrous second half and were fortunate to emerge conceding only two.
Expectations and standards have been set under McInnes and this was way below that.
Victory would have moved the Reds 11 points clear of Hibs and effectively eradicate them from the equation for the two Europe League spots.
Now they are right back in the mix and ominously in red-hot form having beaten their two closest rivals Aberdeen and Rangers back to back.
Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibs are not just scrapping for second but also Europe – three into two Euro spots doesn’t go so one team will miss out.
Aberdeen must improve dramatically from the dismal second-half capitulation in the capital to ensure it is not them.
Thankfully the Reds have a tendency to rally quickly from set-backs – and there is no better stage to prove a point than against the champions.
This loss essentially obliterated any hopes of a Premiership title push – terrible timing ahead of what was due to be billed as a top of the table clash in six days.
They trail Celtic by nine points with only 11 games remaining. Even if they were to end an eight-game winless run on Sunday the harsh reality is that gap could prove too much.
The damage was done at Easter Road. McInnes recently admitted there was “no room for error” with the campaign entering the run in.
This was a capital error.
Aberdeen went to Edinburgh on the back of a four-game winning streak that had yielded 14 goals.
The Reds set up with three at the back.
Winger Gary Mackay-Steven, the scourge of Hibs this season with four goals against them in the previous two games, was essentially a wing-back.
So impressive in recent weeks, he failed to hit those heights.
Skipper Graeme Shinnie was suspended and his combative nature and leadership were badly missed in the second half.
Shinnie will also miss the Celtic match through suspension and on-loan Hoops attacker Ryan Christie will be absent as he is ineligible to play against his parent club.
On-loan Manchester City midfielder Chidi Nwakali came in for Shinnie.